Some time ago I started a pet project: a small Android app for placing the words cutely.
I first published it in October, and yesterday it reached 50,000 installs. I still can’t believe this number! In the beginning I wasn’t getting any downloads, and now!.. I’m very happy with how it goes.
But today, something happened. Someone emailed me and asked me to send them the source code. They wanted it so badly, they emailed me several times, and even called me on Hangouts. It seemed urgent! They needed this code! Now! This instant!
But, wait… why would someone need someone else’s source code?
I asked that person and found out: they wanted to present it as their graduate work in the university.
Why using someone else’s code and pretending it’s yours is bad for the industry
I was abashed.
My university was not the best university in the world, and I admit that I sometimes slacked a bit, but for my software development courses I always implemented all assignments myself. I would never ask anyone to do it for me. Never mind calling a complete stranger and saying it’s urgent!
I emailed that person back and tried to explain why cheating is very bad for them personally, and for the industry as a whole. This is what I wrote.
Cheating is very bad both for yourself and for the industry! I’m going to sound just like your boring professors, but you really need to think about it: if you can’t do it now, how are you going to work after you’ve graduated?Can you imagine, when you’ve graduated and have been working for many years, someone is going to take your work and present it as their own? How would you feel? If that person is not able to do their work by themselves, but is going to graduate and find a job, all thanks to someone else, does it sound like a healthy industry to you?Please put all your efforts into studying, read books and articles, try to implement your own projects, and you will succeed.
Let’s even think a bit further. Someone can’t do the homework and uses someone else’s. So what? Big deal?
Yes, it is a big deal. That person eventually is going to graduate. They’re going to search for their first job. They are used to cheating, so they are going to cheat their way through the job interview, and they will start working.
But they still don’t know a thing about their profession! So working in a team, they are going to steal someone else’s work and pretend it’s their own.
Hopefully, they will be exposed as a cheater, and then fired.
After that, they are going to write in their CV about someone else’s work, and they are going to lie their way through to the second job. And then to the third.
Does this look like a healthy industry?
And just imagine a person like this will be required to do really important and critical things on their workplace. Like, build software for medical companies. Can you guess what happens then?
Someone actually already stole my code once
Several weeks ago, one shiny January morning I woke up and found out there’s a new app also named “Word Cloud”. I got curious and downloaded it. Healthy competition can’t hurt, thought I.
So, I run the app, and lo and behold! It’s the same as mine! The color scheme is different, the buttons are smaller, a couple of functions are missing, but it is so very obvious it’s the same app.
And it’s FULL of ads. I’ve never seen an app where ads were in all places at once.
At the time I had all the code in an open repository on GitHub. So I’m pretty sure these people just took the code, tweaked it a bit, added tons of ads, and published it on Google Play Store.
Again, I was abashed. How did they even have the guts to do it?
I deleted the open repository and complained to the Play Store, and the rogue app was deleted within days. Thanks, Google!
It wasn’t just a project inspired by someone else’s work. They stole the code, added the ads, and they were making money with these ads. Effectively, they were pretending it was their hard and honest work, when it wasn’t.
Implications of cheating
So, someone assigns someone else’s work and pretends it’s their own. What implications does this behavior have?
The honest people won’t get what they deserve for their work. Someone else is going to get it. They are going to face an unfair competition.
Some of them might even leave the profession, if it hits them really hard.
The employers are going to suspect everyone in cheating. The honest people will suffer the lack of trust.
The number of cheaters is going to grow, because people will see how you can get through without really working hard and gaining experience.
If a group of cheaters has something in common, like gender, or race, or skin color, then stigmatization will take place, and all members of this group will face an unfair treatment, even if they are honest.
Some people will leave the industry. People who can’t prove the truth, or who can’t just brush it off. In many cases, it will be minorities, who already face some challenges in their everyday work.
At some point, all people of this profession will be treated as if they all are cheaters. An employer is not going to trust a software developer, if all other software developers are cheaters. A person is not going to trust the plumber, if all plumbers in their life were cheaters. A person is not going to trust the doctors, if all doctors they met before were cheaters.
Is this not a big crisis of an industry? Is this not what’s happening now to our industry?
I do hope it’s not happening at a scale.